On the road
Undeniably, the F1 power unit itself is a gape, the most efficient engine on the planet. If we assess the latest V6 turbo-hybrid power unit to the normally suctioned V8 used up to 2013, 20% more power, and still it produces 26% less in the way of CO2 releases.
Today we live in the world of automobiles and ‘thermal efficiency’ is often debated about its use when talking about engine performance. Simply, this describes the ratio of the energy from ignition that moves a car forward. In the V8 period, thermal efficiency crested at 29%. With the introduction of the V6 turbo-hybrids in 2014, that figure leapt almost immediately to around 40% – and it now stands at over 50%. Yes, that’s right, F1 engines have become 10% more efficient in six years.
Turbo-hyrbid is also faster than the screaming V8. Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, at the longest circuit on the F1 calendar – the fastest race lap in 2013 was a 1m 50.756s set by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel using approximately 135kg of fuel. In 2019, Vettel again set the fastest lap in the Belgian GP, but this time with a lap of 1m 46.409s – having used just 100kg of fuel over the course of the race.
This technology has initiated with Mercedes-AMG’s Project One hypercar using an F1-derived 1.6-litre turbo-hybrid power unit, and Aston Martin’s amazing Valkyrie.
Mercedes uses hybrid technology derived from its F1 car in models such as the S-Class, whereas the paddle shift gearboxes developed in F1 in the late 80s and early 90s are now abundant in road cars.
Meanwhile, KERS introduced back in 2009 to harness braking energy and release it on the track, which is now used not only in hybrid cars, but also in buses, helping make cities less polluted. It doesn’t just stop there though – on the Isle of Eigg – which isn’t connected to the UK’s power grid – the same flywheel energy storage systems are used to power houses and businesses.
The skills of F1 teams in aerodynamics and carbon fibre technology has seen F1 engineering being called upon in many other sports, which includes sailing, bobsleigh and cycling.
For example, McLaren worked with cycle firm Specialized to create the lightweight, carbon fibre ‘Venge’ racing bike, which was both lighter and stiffer than the standard model and later almost immediately that became a race winner.
Those same efficiency gains have been used in the America’s Cup, too, with the likes of Red Bull’s Adrian Newey and ex- McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh engaged with the world’s best sailing teams that use the power of hydrodynamics to gain an advantage – much like aerodynamics.
Change Over cities
Public transport also benefits from the efforts of F1 teams, with McLaren Applied Technologies using F1-derived technology to advance 5G infrastructure for connected road, rail and underground transportation, whereas sensors and data tools that started life in F1 are now used in the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit system amongst others.
McLaren’s F1 data hasn’t just stayed on the ground either, as it is now used by air traffic controllers to foresee which departures and arrivals are most likely to happen out of schedule at an airport by running thousands of imitations every second on-the-fly to avoid congestion, saving time and emissions.
Similarly, numerous times between drivers and their engineers – and doctors with their patients. Data is key in both cases, so hospitals are using McLaren’s data systems to continuously observe patients in ICU. For example, F1 sensors have been placed on surgeons’ elbows while they operate, allowing for ultra-specific feedback.
The sharpest pit stops in motor sport have also saved lives, as both Great Ormond Street Hospital and the University Hospital of Wales have found. Great Ormond Street Hospital took signs from Ferrari in the 1990s and University Hospital of Wales was heavily inspired by Williams in 2016 to improve communication between surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists in operating theatres – among other vital, life-saving improvements in their Cardiff hospital.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also uses McLaren’s pit stop efficiency to improve its production lines, basically doubling the amount of toothpaste it can produce per year among other products, without compromising the quality of the product.
We have also aided from F1-derived tech, with supermarkets now implementing F1 inspired technology. Aerofoils, developed by Aerofoil Energy in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering, have been added to refrigerators, resulting in noticeably less cold air being lost from the units, which in turn results in less use of energy use, less carbon emissions and warmer aisles in stores for customers.
The innovations born out of F1 are forming the world in so many unseen ways. As the world is striving to improve sustainability and taking responsibility for battling climate change, so does F1.
Conclusively formula 1’s technology goes beyond the 21 Grands Prix and 20 cars on the grid. In fact, much more than lap times and trophies. This is how F1 tech makes the world a better place.